Thursday, 5 November 2009

Baby knitting and a bit of rampant consumerism.

New baby arrives next month, and in the spirit of new parenthood, my plastic has been taking a bashing. Firstly, the folding wheel, to enable me to separate the toddler from my spinning, and vice versa. Kromski Sonata, brand new (only got it working last night) and I'm finding a fairly big adjustment process to a double treadle, and having to relearn drafting. Ho hum.
And secondly, the unwashed, unblocked, pile of baby knitting. There will be more to come, but on top of the stuff we have left from River, I have another cardigan for the noob, another hat and a blanket, plus a baby surprise jacket. There will be more to come as well. I'm counting down the days til Christmas, and I honestly am looking forward to it.
Bonfire night tonight! DH is at work until late, so I'm considering being reckless and taking the kids to not one, but two displays this year (in addition to the free fireworks our local motorcycle dealer put on last weekend. What do you think?

Sunday, 30 August 2009

The branding of mothering.

This month, my local Borders closed. No longer will I be able to go and buy my Starbucks Chai Latte and sit musing over a book whilst the children nap comfortably in the Phil and Teds buggy- let along pick up a copy of Interweave Knits or Mothering magazine. Ironically enough, in their inspiringly excellent closing down sale, I picked up a copy of Bonfire of the Brands, by Neil Boorman- and also Consumer Kids, which looks very promising.

As yet, I'm only on -109 days to the bonfire, but something he wrote struck a chord with me. On day -110, he visited Jim, one of those clever people who uses psychographic research (whatever the fuck that might be) to make us do things that we don't know we want to do. (The oversimplistic explanation is mine, all mine. Please, just read the book.) Neil asks why he has such a strong loyalty to Adidas
"over any number of lifestyle-defining sports brands.
'If you're so loyal to Adidas, you've probably been anchored when you were in a highly suggestible state. Brands are an external stimulus that trigger internal reactions. When you hear a certain piece of music, you will instantly remember a time or an event in the past associated with a strong emotion. Brands anchor themselves to a particular moment in your life and act as a trigger in the same way as music. Every time you see the brand, it triggers an emotion. Tell me about your earliest memories connected to Adidas.'
I recount memories from pop videos, watching Olympic athletes on TV, secretly falling in love with an older girl at school who had an Adidas tracksuit: none of these experiences seem to make sense. Then I remember the first day at school, being ostracised from the playground gang for not having the right gear; they were all wearing Adidas.
'That's it! Adidas is anchored to the feelings you felt that day. You were highly suggestive, you had a need for external connection and you saw the brand as a means to personal growth. When you see Adidas, you remember how it feels to be rejected, and it offers the possibility of acceptance. To you, Adidas is acceptance and love'" (p74)- my bolding.

I've been posting on internet parenting forums and communities for almost a decade now, from the UK homebirth yahoo group and Radical Mothers, to Hipmama (the brand extension for a magazine that I STILL haven't read, which I bitterly regret), mamatron and currently MDC. I'm a regular on one of the most exciting new brands to hit the internet, Ravelry- and yet, right now I have misgivings about my commitment. In particular, I'm having reservations about the time I have spent, over the years, supporting publications and doing their marketing for them, strengthening their brand image.

New mothers are often very suggestive. Often, we spend hours reading everything that we can access about birth, breastfeeding, the care and feeding of the magickal creature, the human newborn. So much of this is only normal, surely? One of the things that hits me again and again, though, is how frequently I see my compatriots in the trenches using brands to describe their daily life. The baby is carried in the Moby, naps in the Amby (or the Pack and Play), wears a FB or a BG on their bottom- unless of course, they're EC'ed, in which case mum probably has not only a potty, but a Baby Bjorn Little Potty. Let's not go into the jealousy I feel over Hanna Anderson, a brand that isn't available here. It feels, truly, as if the messages about baby stuff have been internalised- that the modern mother accepts that stuff is necessary, but selects her brands carefully for the statement that they make. A mother who uses Fuzzi Bunz on her infant- or my personal object of desire, the Blueberry- is making a very different statement than the mother who buys 60cm terry squares and folds them differently according to whether the child is a newborn or a toddler. In reading a single forum on MDC earlier today, I came across 100 brand references in 17 minutes- and by accepting the other brands, it strengthens the acceptance of the parent brand, the magazine hosting the discussion.

Current statistics are suggesting that new mothers spend a minimum of 3 hours a day on the internet- some suggest as much as 6 hours spent surfing parenting forums. That's a large amount of brand loyalty up for grabs. This comes back to the bolded up above- the brand, the Mothering brand in particular, offers external connection. It offers a means to personal growth- to a group of individuals who are at a highly suggestive time of their lives. Motherhood is hard. It is undervalued, and underrespected, there is no positive appraisal system and a lot of self-doubt. And into this, we have the brand.
MDC, in some ways, is an inspiring thing. The Holiday Helper community is awesome, and the FYT board has taken many a mother from geographic isolation to part of a RL community. It comes at a cost, though. The cost is loyalty, and perhaps the loss of our autonomy. There are posters who are savage in their condemnation of anyone who is not sufficiently loyal to the twin brands of Mothering and Attachment Parenting- because of course, judgement is not always wrong.
Recently, I've seen too many instances that make me worry that we are becoming loyal to the brand, rather than to our children. The mother who omits to mention her c-section, or the parent who accepts reassurance that a poor weight gain IS normal and chooses not to investigate further. Stories of midwives (unlicensed, sometimes) making outrageous suggestions completely unrelated to evidence based care. There's others. People talk laughingly of "drinking the koolaid"- but the fact is that brand loyalty in other areas of our life can interfere with our instincts and our ability to think for ourself. In fact, this is what it's designed to do. Why, then, should our loyalty to the Mothering brand be any different?

I'm interested in other people's opinions on this one. Am I being ridiculous, and reading too much into this? Or not enough?

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The English summer





What's not to love about the long summer holidays? We have rain, drizzle, mizzle, torrential rain, flooding, greyness, and occasional breaks in sunshine which makes all the rain worthwhile. I'm convinced that my tomatoes are never, ever going to ripen though.
The sweater and necklace were knitted/crafted for a swap on MDC, and are now safely arrived at their new home in Germany. The pattern for the necklace lies here. Crochet is becoming easier as I go, which is nice. I think.
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Tuesday, 4 August 2009

When I was a little girl

When I was a little girl I believed that the reason we had summer holidays from school was so we could get watered, and could grow, ready for September. There's many reasons for this crackpot belief, but six weeks of solid rain was the biggest. Joy of joys, it looks like my children get one of these summers too.
We're making an effort to wrap them up in their waterproofs and get out, but darn it, it's miserable (and Vancouverians, you aren't helping.)
What this does mean is that I've had knitting time- and even crochet time. Unfortunately, I've also lost the camera cable, so I can't show you what I've been working on. I did remember to take a picture before posting it off, though. This is what happens when you have four kids stuck in the house for large amounts of time. They make a mess. Lots of it. So, this is really a quick post to make me feel less bad about neglecting the blog, and to moan about the weather- that most English of topics.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009






So at the weekend, we parcelled everyone in the car and drove them down to Longleat, because we've never been, and it looked like it was going to rain, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. And overall, it was lovely. I've never "done" a safari park before, though when we were in Colchester we were regulars at the zoo, and it was a completely different experience. The animals did appear less concerned by the cars and seemed more active and perhaps slightly less stressed than the humans around them, in their space, at the zoo?
River loved it. He's now most definitely "getting it" and is talking about things- so he was pointing and pointing and shouting about zebras and the giraffes and out of the car window at the animals he saw as we drove by. The big ones were happy too, but it wasn't new and fresh and exciting the way it was with River.

Knitting news and pics to follow, I should have a FO by tonight...
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Sunday, 28 June 2009

So, what I did when I forgot to blog.

So, we're in the new house, and it is everything we dreamt of (with the exception of the plumbing for the dishwasher. But that is getting sorted.) There is a luxury to having one's own bedroom, tiny though it may be, (the above view is from MY side of the bed) and in making a mess in one's own kitchen- even when the mess was not deliberate, but was caused by a small boy who is OH! So proud! because he has figured out how to help himself to nutella whilst mummy was distracted. It truly has been wonderful.
As yet, the house is very much a blank canvas. The walls remain painted solely with gardenia, the chalky first coat that builders put on brand new plaster, and there is no artwork up. Our ornaments and nicknacks aren't out on display yet and we have blinds of one kind or another in most of the rooms, not curtains. We do have a real sense of being able to take our time, to get it right, because this is our house and one way or another, we will make our mark on it and in a small way, everyone in the future will know that we were here, and what was important to us. If circumstances had been different, we would never in a million years have chosen a new build- we've spent the last five years obsessively reading self-build mags and watching Grand Designs, with visions of how we're going to restore and reclaim our Victorian terrace- but we have no choice but to live near Steve's father. He needs us- and with total honesty, there aren't that many older four bedroomed house in Swindon, and those that there are often go for more money than the new builds.
Part of this, of course, is baby underpants, the surprise Christmas present. One of the things that we actually talked about was how strange it was going to be living in a house that had never seen a birth, or a death- well, soon it will. I'm mentally measuring up the downstairs rooms for a birth tub- right now, I'm thinking that the kitchen is the best place, but that may change. Making the decision to continue the pregnancy wasn't easy for us- when you already have four kids, especially after as many losses as we've had, you can picture pretty clearly what you're in for- the highs as well as the lows. I honestly don't think that there is any right decision in a situation like this, where contraception fails after your family is complete- or rather, I think that both decisions were right. So yes- as things stand, I have a very wriggly bean growing in my belly, I'm 15 weeks pregnant and we're slowly starting to get excited. Cross your fingers and hope for a mellow kid for me, though, please?
And as knitting goes, I'm being thoroughly selfish. We were invited to a wedding for one of Steve's colleagues a few weeks back, and I realised with a week to go that I needed a shawl to go over my shoulders- and my knitting ego came creeping in and demanded a handknit. When will I learn? This is Ishbel, from Ysolda Teague, who generally writes effective and virtually bombproof patterns with some lovely construction. And yes, so far it's 50 rows of stocking stitch with 4 columns of eyelets (and obviously was not finished in time for the wedding) but you can still admire it. The yarn is seasilk by Elliebelly, who have sadly finished trading; Joyce was one of the first blogs I read when I discovered knitting, and has been a constant source of inspiration and amusement over the years. I'm astounded by the MMA she produces- so talented- and some of her dye jobs, especially the overdyeing, produce some wonderful hues. Last year's local yarn diet meant that I didn't stock up as much as I should have done, and now it's too late :( I'll never have her copper patina in my stash. This is Pellucidly- and I love it.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Sorry for the temporary absence.

I will be back with pictures shortly...

In the meantime, a little light reading